Compilation of Memories (Memoirs)
1924-1939 – Nine trips to Europe – Memories
From 1924 when I made Aliyah from the Diaspora of Poland to Eretz Israel until September 1939, I traveled back and forth to Poland nine times. Several times I visited relatives and friends in my home town Zablotov. Among them were my brother Naftali, his son Nathan and his family זל, the Rabbis R’Abraham, his son-in-law, the head of the court R’Mordechai. I had a good relationship with his father and his brother Yonah זל. I visited Rabbi R’Chaim Hager, his wife, who was the daughter of R’Shlomo Ashkenazi, my neighbor in Stanislau. She was a scholar in Hebrew and foreign languages. For hours we spent talking about Torah and worldly matters. They wanted to hear from me in 1937 when I stayed over Shabbat. I was invited by Rabbi R’Chaim for the third Shabbat meal in the company of his admirers and listened to the words of Torah with discussions. In the neighboring city of Kolomyea, I visited the Rabbi R’Chaim Teumim, Rabbi R’David Reiz brother of my brother-in-law R’Shmerl from Bratshani.
Where are these people, with whom I was in business contact, friends and families? Where are the Rabbis who taught me Torah and that I met on my travels in all the countries from Bukovina, Herzegovina and all the cities? Where are they and their students who were nourished by them?
Where are they, the big businessmen that earned me a living and made them a profit throughout the years? Where is Glasinger and his partners, the company that was famous throughout Europe for their honesty, good products and fair treatment? Where is the honest manager Karl Paar זל? For ten years, I bought large quantities of orange crates for our country and the manager treated my fairly and correctly. What a tragedy that he and his friend N. Sapir זל did not come to Eretz Israel to open a modern carpentry factory.
These are the businessmen of Stanislau: R’Yeshyahu, his sons Leibish and Michael Sakal, זל they produced wood and planks in their mill and tried to make a profit. I worked with R’Abraham Bloch from Dalatin זל, R’Chaim Fogel and his partners where I bought wood from their mill זל, the manager Benny Aaron זל, and many others.
Where are the good Jews who took in guests and gave charity like R’Moshe Shatner זל, from Tzavina and the other Jews like him?
Where are the spiritual institutions of the cities of Galicia, some of them I helped establish? I remember visiting my home town of birth, Zablotov, the street of the Cheder of R’Abraham Gross. We studied Mishnah, the legend on page שיר השירים כא עמוד ב (page 21, column b, Song of Songs). (Grandfather remembers exactly how he was taught and how each word and phrase was explained. RDK)
From this Cheder, students became teachers of other students and R’Abraham Kresl and his friends זל set up a Talmud Torah. These sons and daughters came from the school of שפה ברורה (Clear Language). In this town the young people were Zionists and the teachers taught hundreds of boys and girls. These schools were established in Stanislau and Dalatin.
After the terrible heart rendering Holocaust of the years 1941-1945, to our horrible sorrow we will not hear the sound of Torah from lips in these places; those students of the Yeshivas in the big cities and those from the Cheders in the small towns, no more the voices of children in Talmud Torah from Rechov Balvadar in Stanislau, from the school Banot Yacov, from Safa Bruriah, elementary schools, Hebrew Schools, Beit Haam on Rechov Amsaki 16, the voices of thousands of children playing in these streets, the voice of the youth when you came to visit places in the Summer, the joy of hearing these voices and their dreams and plans for the future in Holy Eretz.
Where are my beloved grandchildren Menachim, the Bar Mitzvah boy and Shimshon Joseph, student of Haskalah and שפה ברורה in Stanislav, who received outstanding reports each year? My grandchildren Hadassah and Devorah and Joseph, the last time I saw them was in 1939. Hadassah recited by heart the poem כרם היה and Devorah the poem ותשר דבורה. The first was from ישיעתו ח', the second was from שופטים ה'. I had great hopes of meeting them soon. Woe is me; they are gone by the hands of the murdering Nazis and the evil neighbors that lived there, some by stoning, some by fire, some by water in the places where they lived. Most of them were sent to the gas chambers of Belz, Auschwitz, etc.
We received the blow of “Job” in 1946. Refugees came from the destroyed cities where people were annihilated, from my birth place Zablotow, from Stanislau and other places. All of them tell of the murder and spilling blood of men, women and children. Books were published about several cities telling the details of the terrible holocaust of the Jewish people all over Europe until 1945.
We had hoped that the cultured people would put a stop to Hitler ימש, the spilling of the blood of millions. There was no such voice, no warning and no stopping the evil ones and their evil sinning partners.
The Jewish People believe in the Torah where the truth is written. The blood of millions is still screaming from the earth demanding revenge. Will the Jews forget to take revenge? No and No! Heavenly justice is repulsed by the innocent blood spilled. God can wait but in time there will be the day of reckoning, God’s revenge. When the murdering soldiers stood in front of the gates of Eretz Israel at El Alamein (Note* the German army advanced across North Africa until they were defeated by the British not far from Cairo. RDK) The German enemy found the beginning of the end. Hitler disappeared and no one knows where he is buried. His evil partner like Mussolini, the murdering Italian, surrendered and was hung in public by partisans.
Here are the wonders of God! After the defeat of the murdering Nazis in WWII, the British Mandate Government left Eretz Israel. That same day, “ויבוא עמלק וילחם בישראל” (Amalek attacked the Jews). The Arabs that lived in the country plus seven Arab countries surrounding Eretz Israel sent their armies to fight “Israel”, all of them armed with modern weapons.
The small Israeli army went out to fight the large enemy, a small slingshot against the Philistine Goliath. You are against me with a sword and spear and we with the help of God have only a knife. Israel is victorious, the few against the many, the pure against the impure. The independence of the State of Israel was confirmed by the United Nations with 33 voices of different countries for, and 13 against, ten of them were Arab countries and their friends.
The Jews seriously believed in the Allies, the cultured people that succeeded in winning that terrible war, the many millions killed and wounded. Revenge and pay! The students of Hitler, the scorpions and snakes, let them be punished without mercy.
After the UN recognized the demands and rights of the Jewish People to have an independent country in the home of their fathers, the Jewish People believed that the Arab People would have learned their lesson and would agree to this decision and not go to war.
What did these cultured, western countries do to recompense the spilling of blood by these ruthless Nazis and Arabs? They were charitable to these killers and returned the German Nazis to their countries a short time after conquering them. To the Arabs they did not say “Stop”. As part of the cold war, day after day the Arabs sent infiltrators into Israel to sabotage steal and murder. They received all kinds of armaments from the big black bear from the East, Russia, in order to fight against those desiring and requesting Peace. Israel was not given the right to buy arms necessary to save its life and the lives of its people.
This people who sit in Zion, in an independent country, believe in the miracles and redemption that saved their fathers in every generation as in the days of Chanukah. Our young heroes performed miracles in our War of Independence in 1947/1948.
“אחד מאה ירדופו, ושנים רבבה,” (one hundred are like 10,000) our heroic soldiers, few in number, took revenge on the Arabs. Many thousands were killed and there are no numbers of how many ran away. We hope forever. In these days of Chanukah, our heroes took a small revenge on the Syrian enemy. We crossed the Kinneret and killed 55 soldiers and took between 30 and 50 prisoners. We hope that young Israel will overcome, with God’s help, the second round against Egypt.
In 1954, the writer Mr. G. Kressel came to me with a request that he would organize and correct my diary in order to publish it. I agreed to his request and at the end of the year, I gave him about 40 written pages. After a short time, he returned them to me for proof reading. There were additions to what I had written for many years. I proof read the diary and perhaps corrected and added pages. Today on the third and fourth day of Chanukah 1956, Kressel concluded he couldn’t deal with the diary. I hope that one of my grandchildren will be interested in this diary of about 230 pages and will continue the memories so that the lit candle of the sons of Aaron the Cohen and their memories will not be forgotten.
In August 1953, my daughter-in-laws parents, Tzvi Alexandrovitch, his wife Sarah and his son Mordechai came to live in my apartment in a room where my son Jacob and his family had lived. I did not ask him for key money for the room, as was customary at that time in this country, which was about 1,500 Li. From this sum, the owner gets one third of the amount and the person who sublets gets two thirds.
I asked Alexandrovitch to pay the owner of the apartment his share, 500 Li, which was not yet fulfilled but would be in a few days. He would pay me his share of the rent and part of the monthly expenses.
The Alexandrovitchs treated us with respect, especially the wife Sarah who was a kosher woman and treated me like a daughter to a father, courteously and respectfully.
She served me a cup of tea, sweets, fruit, etc; she was in fact a אשת חיל. (valorous woman)
The holidays passed quietly, thank God. During the Holy Days I prayed alone in the house of Rabbi R’Jacob Rosenheim. My wife was sick and did not take part in the prayers of the holidays. Now she feels better and can take care of the house.
My son David traveled abroad again after the holidays. He went to Vienna, Trieste and other places on HaArgaz business and to settle a dispute of the Pri-Hadar Company. I hoped that he would go to Amsterdam to buy something from Aaron’s estate that was there in a bank. Unfortunately, I had to take care of this through Israel’s ambassador. I received from Bank Leumi 2,633 Li for $1,665 according to the official exchange rate. That day in the beginning of November, the exchange rate for the dollar was 2.40 Li. The sum should have been 3,999 Li. The amount of difference was 1,363 Li which went to the government. I appealed to the government that according to my calculations, there was a difference between the Dutch Guilder and the Dollar of about 120 to 150 dollars. I assume I will receive part of my appeal. When? God knows! (Note* This money was owed to Aaron who worked for a company in Holland before he was killed. RDK)
A short time ago I received from my son David a part of this money and donated part to charity. Now I have about 300 Li. I wanted my son David to find an investment for most of this money in order to make a profit. Some of this money I had to use for living expenses since prices almost doubled. In 1952-53 I needed about 25 Li a month and now need about 50 Li a month.
On the 9th of Tevet 1954 there was a אזכרה (memorial) for those who were killed from my home town Zablotow. The invitation was arranged by Getzel Kressel and signed with my name without getting my permission. I did not agree to this gathering but took part in the evening ceremony. These memorials began in 1946 and I was one of the first speakers. In this memorial of the 9th of Tevet, I informed them that from this day on, I leave my position as head of the organization of Zablotow survivors. Getzel Kressel took upon himself to be the head of the memorial. The first speaker was his brother Abraham Kressel, after him Moshe Greif who spoke in Yiddish (on previous occasions most of the eulogies were in Hebrew, especially mine). After Greif, Hamish spoke several words in Hebrew. The memorial meeting was in the Keren Kayemet hall on Rechov Tzvi Shapiro. There were about 100 people, most of them women from all parts of the country. I knew very few of them. After Meir Hamish finished talking, I left the hall with my son David at about 9:45. תנצבה May the memories of these holy victims be remembered.
As I wrote, Alexandrovitch took care of the key money with the owner of the apartment, I. Shtreich, with the help of my son David. He paid the key money and had to pay 12 Li a month for the room in the apartment.
On my appeal to the government of the money missing from Aaron’s account in Holland, I received no answer and there seems to be no chance that I will get any part of it. It’s a shame.
On Pesach 1954, we celebrated with both my sons and their families. My son Jacob, his wife and daughter came to us erev Shabbat and stayed until the second day of the holiday. We were twelve people, the family Alexandrovitch and my son David’s family. My grandson Avi Ben David asked the four questions. My granddaughter Batia who was almost five also asked the questions.. The Afikomon was stolen by Avi and was stubborn in his demands to return it.
As in all the years, we did not forget the family that was missing and I will never forget. On the fourth cup, my eyes filled with tears as I remembered what Jonathan said to David, “ופקדת כי יפקוד מקומך” (whatever happens, I will be there for you). I will never forget you; your places at the table will forever remain empty. תנצבה
On the 8th of Iyar, I traveled with my son David to Jerusalem in a taxi. The trip in the morning took an hour and a quarter from 8:00 until 9:15. I was an overnight guest of the Rabbi David Sperber and the following day an overnight guest with Dov Robinson. I visited the doctor Chana Suker and her husband where my eyes were examined and I was given medicine. Rabbi Sperber’s son accompanied me to the Knesset to observe a sitting. On Thursday afternoon, we went to Har Zion, close to the grave of King David. I lengthened my days by praying Psalms and returned home safely.
Content last updated Friday, March 15, 2013 at 07:47 PM Mountain Daylight Time